Violet Archer – Trio Number 2 (1958) The Halifax Trio – CBC International – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The Music of Canadian composer Violet Archer this week. Her Trio Number 2 as played on this CBC transcription disc by The Halifax Trio, recorded in the early 1960s.
Violet Archer wrote more than 280 compositions. Her repertoire is wide and extensive, ranging from music for solo flute to electronic music, with an emphasis on chamber music, choral music and songs for solo voice and piano.
Her teaching career was an extensive one and very active in the guiding of young composers. Many of her former composition students both in Canada and the United States are now professionals and recognized in their field.
She was an ardent promoter of Canadian music and other 20th-century music, being active on the boards of a large number of national and regional organizations. She was also active both as a national and regional adjudicator of young composers’ contests in the United States and later in Canada.
The guiding aesthetic force in Archer’s music is best described as neo-classic. “The Norton-Grove Dictionary of Women Composers” describes her music thusly: “Archer’s music is on the one hand dissonantly contrapuntal yet on the other refreshingly folksy. Early modality gave way to a more chromatic style, with a period during the 1950s in which the influence of Hindemith and Gebrauchsmusik is strongly evident. Although she taught 12-tone technique to her students in the USA, she has not used it in her own music, and it is mainly in her variation technique or in a short-lived expressionistic phase in the mid-1960s that her study of Arnold Schoenberg is discernible. Her works are generally characterized by economical, almost lean, textures, skillful manipulation of form, and counterpoint. She has explored new sonorities using parallelism and folk tunes, while rejecting serialism and chance music.”
She was also a deeply religious person who credited her achievements to her faith: “I believe we are guided in what we do. Without my faith I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing and, of course, I always feel that each new piece should be better than the last one.”
Dr. Violet Archer was born in Montréal, Québec in 1913, lived most of her mature life in Edmonton, Alberta, and passed away on February 22, 2000 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.